I vowed to not work a single Saturday as an English teacher this year. It’s pretty common for English hagwons here to have grueling hours that squeeze their teachers for all their worth. I’m pretty serious about leaving work at work and not letting it haunt me when I clock out. So leaving my Saturdays and Sundays as sacred for relaxing and nothing is something I try hard to protect. But, I’ve broken that two weekends in a row.
I’m used to working hard, though. I remember when I was a kid, friends asked me to bike around the neighborhood and get some teas from the little store. Unfortunately for me, Saturdays were often yardwork days. I had to stick around to trim our hedges, mow the lawn, pick up apples, or clear out the garage with my dad.
My mom was/is probably a borderline workaholic (I remember calling her that). I wouldn’t say in a bad way, she’s worked in human services and in the nonprofit sector all her career (besides at a butcher shop in small town Minnesota). She loves what she gets to do. While visiting her office during a 60-hour work week for her, she would tell me “There are the best- and worst- people in human services.” The beauty of what my mom has been able to do is in the amazing communities she’s been a part of, and that holds much more value than income for her. From people “in her corner”, she has gotten love, growth, comfort, and belonging.
I’m happy to put extra work in, to contribute and to get off my ass and do something, and to participate and be a part of something. This year has taught me a lot about work and working and has involved a lot of new things in career and community. Moreover, the extra weekends I’ve been working have certainly been new investments in career and community for me.
I haven’t been teaching, but have been waiting tables, bussing, and making kick-ass plates at a restaurant called “The Local” in the western part of Seoul.
I met the owner, Greg, last summer around my birthday, in July. I asked him if I could have a little birthday dinner at his restaurant before it was a restaurant. At that time, there wasn’t any paint, were no nice table, and we had minimal kitchen equipment. It was a good way that I could show my interest in food and for us to cook together a little bit. Fast forward, the Local opened in August of 2020, was closed for half the month in October and November due to Covid, and soon to be my place of employment.
Some of you know that I was interested in some culinary endeavors back home in MN. In 2018 I operated a Korean lunchbox kitchen from my apartment. In Spring of 2019, I hosted an event at Minnesota Council of Nonprofits to build awareness for rising changemakers in central Minnesota with local artists and an amazing course menu, Heart and Soul Food. Then before I left, I was plotting with some people who were also interested in expanding St. Cloud’s understanding of cuisine and culture in a restaurant/shared kitchen capacity.
Last weekend I made Beef Tartares, Eggs in Hell, and Sausage Fennel Pasta, AND sold $50 bottles of wine (Trust me, never had that growing up). Like everything, there’s a learning curve, and I know that I have a long way to go. I’m shit at pouring wine, nearly ate floor tile not wearing non-slip shoes, and nearly drizzled white wine on an open range. But I have a great mentor for now and am pretty hellbent on making this work.
So, for now it’s weekends, but in March I’ll be there fulltime. I’m sure somedays I’ll kill to be back working with kids. I’ll miss the scraping of classroom chairs and not dining chairs. I’ll miss lesson prepping for the week and not food prepping for service. But in the end I’ll still be welcoming people into a shared space together.
I miss home a lot. I miss my friends and small town St. Cloud. I miss my soccer team and all the boys. But what helps is that I have something and some people to focus on that are damn worthwhile to be with.